Never Underestimate The Opposition Attorney

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

When I was a teenager, I attended a program in Washington D.C. in the law.  Though I had wanted to be an attorney for about seven years at that point, I had actually applied to be in a program regarding national politics, but that was full, so I went to the legal program instead.

The program was very interesting.  We visited a juvenile correction facility, we went to the local District of Columbia courts, we visited the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, and though I cannot remember exactly because I’ve been a number of times, the Supreme Court and Congress. However, I recall in particular one visit to a public defender in the local courts.  On each visit, someone gave a presentation and the students were able to interact with the presenter.

The attorney with the public defender’s office made a great impression on me. This attorney had the passion and zeal of a true believer.  He said that people asked how he could sleep at night defending criminals.   He said “like a baby.”   He made one student, whose uncle was murdered, cry. He spit venom on many occasions, most memorably against non-public defender appointed attorneys whom he labeled as “soup-on-their-tie lawyers.”

Soup-on-their-tie lawyers.  Meaning, a slovenly attorney, from a ninth-tier law school, who barely passed the bar exam, of questionable ethics and practices, who was never prepared, always took the short cut.  The image of that lawyer is burnt into my brain.  At one of my previous employers, this kind of attorney was referred to as a “generic discipline-able attorney.”

As I grow older, however, let me caution newer attorneys not to underestimate the opposition attorney.  As a society, we have a tendency to overemphasize conventional wisdom.  The person wearing glasses is intelligent. Or on the other side of the coin, someone who looks like they slept in their suit (or spilled soup on their tie) is incompetent.

As a lawyer, you should not underestimate the opposition attorney, even if they have made a few mistakes along the way.  Even the worst attorney in the world sometimes stumbles into a great case.  Remember what my Theory of Knowledge teacher taught me: even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Do not be lulled into a false sense of confidence because of who is opposing you.  You still need to do your homework and do your job.  Particularly if you are a civil defense lawyer. You usually do not get to pick your cases.  The plaintiff’s lawyer usually does get to pick their cases.  Sometimes the case is better than you initially think.  Thinking a good case will go away because of the opposition attorney is an easily avoidable mistake.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708
Advertisements

Why do you want to be a lawyer?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

Too many people go to law school with goals that are not necessarily, in my humble opinion, conducive to being happy, productive member of the legal community.  Before considering spending money to become an attorney, no matter the path, young people in the United States should ask themselves, “Why do I want to be a lawyer?”  Law can be a difficult profession, not at all like what you might see in television and the movies.  One thing that prospective attorneys do not often realize is the profession requires that you put your own needs firmly below that of the client.  Because the law often draws the ego-driven, this can cause much unhappiness, particularly in younger lawyers.

I have been thinking of how to express my feelings on this topic.  I have given advice, both solicited and unsolicited to people before they go to law school, and even some in law school.  I think one paragraph in an article that arrived today in the California Lawyer put it as succinctly as possible.  These are the words of Dan Grunfeld, a partner at Kaye Scholer LLP.  I have never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Grunfeld, nor have I ever had any cases with his current firm.  However, his essay “A Lost Generation” which appears at page 16 of the March 2013 California Lawyer.  Mr. Grunfeld writes (in the paragraph I mentioned earlier:

For their part, would-be lawyers should think twice before even applying to law schools. The legal profession can be noble and rewarding. Yet it is also demanding, and not immune to the same economic forces that have thrown so many other industries into turmoil. Law school hopefuls should apply because they want to become lawyers, not because they can’t figure out what else to do – and especially not because they see it as an easy path to a lucrative career.

Do not go to law school if your sole goal is to make money.  There are a lot of better paths to make money.  Also, you have to have a commitment to being a lawyer-to helping people (in the broadest sense of the world) with their problems and in turn by helping society resolve issues and make things happen within the bounds of the legal framework that makes the United States such a great country.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St., Suite 517
Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708